Thacker Pass lithium project moves closer to approval

January 21, 2020

Lithium Americas Corp. moved a step closer to having its Thacker Pass development come to fruition after the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) filed paperwork to ask for public comment over the next year on the Thacker Pass project’s environmental impact statement (EIS).

The review process could result in final permits to build by 2021.

Reuters reported that the lithium mine in Nevada could help the United States become less dependent on foreign sources for critical minerals. Lithium is used to make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Albemarle Corp is the only current U.S. producer of lithium.
“The initiation of the EIS process by the BLM is a major accomplishment and milestone toward developing Thacker Pass as a low-cost and environmentally responsible source of lithium chemicals in the U.S.,” said Jonathan Evans, Lithium Americas’ president and chief executive officer. “This achievement, which commences a mandated 12-month process to complete the EIS, was a team effort that required the coordination and commitment from the BLM, local and state government agencies, our partners and the team at Lithium Nevada.”

The company plans to develop the Nevada mine, which would extract lithium from a clay deposit in two phases over roughly 40 years. The project’s footprint would be about 73 km² (28 sq miles), according to regulatory filings.

Thacker Pass is expected to employ about 300 people when operational and produce several types of lithium. It could eventually make solid-state lithium batteries, according to the filing.

Lithium Americas plans to spend $400 million on the first phase of the project and produce 20 kt (22,000 st) of lithium annually.

The company hopes to begin building the mine in 2021, close it in 2061 and spend at least five years reclaiming the site, a process designed to return it as close as possible to its pre-mine state, according to the filings.

Vancouver-based Lithium Americas is also developing a lithium brine project in northern Argentina with China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd., its largest shareholder.

“The Thacker Pass project is being engineered to produce low-cost, battery-quality lithium products reliably and at scale; however, the environmental design is a point of pride for the project team. Our goal is to produce the first carbon-neutral lithium products, representing an innovative benchmark in the industry,” said Alexi Zawadzki, chief executive officer of Lithium Nevada. “Our vision is for a more sustainable battery supply chain in the United States, with cathode and cell manufacturing located in close proximity to the proposed Thacker Pass mine site.”


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